This Is The Ideal Temperature For Perfectly Cooked Pork

Correction 4/14/23: A previous version of this article indicated that trichinosis is caused by bacteria. It is caused by a roundworm parasite.   

Pork is a beloved dish for its versatility. There are just so many delicious cuts of meat available on a pig. From rich bacon and ham to the classic pork chop and mouthwatering pork loin, there are plenty of great options to choose from when it comes to pork. One of the most common problems for home cooks is that their pork seems to easily dry out. That might be because the pork is overcooked. Overcooking pork can take out a lot of the moisture and ruin the flavor of the meat.

It's vital to get meats and fish up to a safe internal temperature so that bacteria and parasites are killed off, but overdoing it will leave you with a dry, stiff, flavorless puck. No matter how good the quality of your meat is, overcooking it will ruin it. It's the same reason why ordering a steak well done is considered such a travesty. 

Pork only needs to be cooked to 145 degrees

For many years, the ideal temperature recommended for pork was a minimum of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This was done to ensure that the roundworm parasites that cause trichinosis were killed during cooking (via Mayo Clinic). Though, Bon Appétit notes that there haven't been prevalent cases of trichinosis in decades. University of Illinois' animal sciences department meat specialist Anna Dilger says the trichinella parasite was common in the 1920s and '30s but poses nowhere near the same threat today. Even the USDA has updated its cooking recommendations to this lower temperature.

A recent study from the University of Illinois also shows evidence for improved flavor. Participants were presented with cuts of pork cooked at 145 degrees and 160 degrees and they consistently preferred the pork cooked at a lower temperature. Even when higher grade cuts of pork were used, the meat cooked to 145 degrees most often came out on top.

So, if you've been scared away from cooking pork because of a bad experience in your past, it's time to get back on the horse — or pig in this case. If you don't already have one, get a meat thermometer, and bring the center of your pork to 145 degrees Fahrenheit before letting it rest for 10 to 20 minutes to achieve the juiciest texture and flavor.